Rhys Evans, Director of ALCO-Safe
The festive season may be over for another year, but this is no reason for organisations to reduce their efforts to curb alcohol consumption in the workplace. The reality is that South Africa has a drinking culture, and alcohol abuse is a problem throughout the year and not just over the December period. Applying policies and testing solely during this time is simply not the most effective method, nor is it compliant with health and safety regulations. In 2015 organisations should look towards implementing alcohol testing policies that are consistently enforced throughout the year, and not selectively during the festive season, for more effective control and improved health and safety compliance.
For many organisations, especially transportation and logistics companies, the festive season is particularly challenging with regard to ensuring drivers do not operate under the influence of alcohol. The holiday period typically sees an increase in alcohol consumption as well as an increase in traffic accidents and road deaths. In order to minimise the dangers of drivers operating under the influence, these companies often enforce random alcohol testing. While this is an effective way to address the issue in the short-term, in the long-term it is generally ineffective at controlling the use of alcohol in the workplace. Aside from creating resentment from employees and extra stress for management, selectively enforcing alcohol testing only during certain times of the year does nothing to create the desired culture of responsibility and accountability with regard to alcohol consumption. Achieving this requires a combination of effective policies and procedures, education to help change culture, and quality testing equipment that can be used to enforce policies consistently throughout the year.
Developing effective policies and procedures and importantly, enforcing these policies and procedures, is essential to ensure that random testing takes place on a regular basis. In addition, awareness of policies needs to be created throughout the organisation, not only around the existence of policies and the process followed but also the need for these policies in improving safety for all concerned. Further to this, education is also an essential foundation in minimising alcohol consumption in the workplace. Often, employees are not aware of the harmful consequences of alcohol usage on their health, the safety of the workplace, and in the case of transport and logistics, of other road users. Education can help employees to understand the reasons for alcohol testing, how to drink more responsibly, the impact of alcohol on their health, how breathalysers work and so on. It is also essential to help ease the transition to a culture of continuous testing and enforcement of policies throughout the year.
Supporting policies and procedures, organisations should also implement appropriate high-quality alcohol testing equipment. A variety of different breathalyser solutions are available to meet the needs of workplaces across industries, and are essential in enforcing policies and ensuring compliance with health and safety regulations. Purchasing leading solutions from a reputable supplier will ensure that organisations continue to benefit from their breathalyser investment throughout the year and for many years to come.
Alcohol use in the workplace and on the roads is a problem all year round, and not only over the festive season. Random testing and consistently enforced policies throughout the year are essential in creating a culture that alcohol abuse is never acceptable at work. This not only dramatically improves health and safety, it also prevents additional stress during the holiday period, as alcohol testing and policies are no longer an issue that is only applicable at a certain time of year. High-quality equipment, effective policies and education and consistent enforcement will enable businesses, particularly those in the transport sector, to better control the number of workers operating under the influence, with positive knock on benefits all round.